Tulip Airport Expansion Is A Go

    HOLLAND — The Federal Aviation Administration’s long-awaited commitment to funding a large share of the planned $18.5 million extension of the main runway at Tulip City Airport this year means the project should begin on time in the fall.

    If all works out and the construction contract is awarded in August, as expected, the extended runway could open before the end of 2004.

    While the additional $5.9 million allocation from the FAA, for a total of $16.9 million in federal funding, was fully expected, there was some uncertainty over when the agency would commit to the funding. That question was erased earlier this month when the FAA issued the final funding needed for the project to go forward.

    “We really had no doubt we would get it. It was when we would get it,” said Jim Storey, chairman of the Tulip City Airport Advisory Board. “It was very much an issue of timing.”

    Without the FAA committing to funding its share of the project, the Michigan Department of Transportation was unwilling to proceed with bidding out a construction contract. The FAA’s decision means the state can now proceed with the bid process and award the contract in time for site excavation to begin in late September or early October, well before the winter weather sets in, Storey said.

    “It assures the project will go forward. It’s a major deal and it comes at a very good time,” he said.

    Extension of the main runway from 5,000 to 6,000 feet, designed to enable Tulip City to comply with federal safety-zone standards and to better serve corporations that use the airport, has been considered since 1997 and in the planning stages since 2001. Prior to the economic downturn, the airport handled 50,000 takeoffs and landings a year.

    Most of Tulip City Airport’s air traffic consists of cargo planes and corporate and charter aircraft serving the local business community. Johnson Controls Inc., for example, operates a daily corporate flight between its Automotive Systems Group in Plymouth, its Holland operations and the corporate headquarters in Milwaukee, carrying about 2,000 passengers a month.

    Federal and state funding sources will cover 95 percent of the project’s cost. The city will cover the remaining 5 percent, with a good portion of that amount coming through contributions from local corporations that use the airport.

    A dozen local businesses have pledged about $1.2 million to the project, Storey said.

    The project’s initial phase calls for construction of a tunnel for Washington Avenue on the west side of the airport to carry traffic beneath the runway extension.               

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